Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Meetcha Day

Well, as most of our friends know, we have been to Ethiopia and back!  We appeared in court on July 3, and Jackson Dechasa Kirk is officially our son.  We did not get to bring him home on this trip.  We will return to Ethiopia in approximately 4 weeks to bring him back to the United States.  There are emotions on top of emotions that we are still processing.  I want to speak more about our time in Ethiopia as soon as we've had the chance to really process all that we saw and experienced.

But for now, Wes has been busy working on videos of our trip.  There are two.  One of the trip to Ethiopia in general, and one of the experience of meeting our son.  I think they speak for themselves.  Toady I will post our Meetcha video.  Enjoy.  :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Most of my adoption updates go onto Facebook.  Life has been throwing a lot of labor intensive curve balls lately, and I haven't had time or energy to do much writing.  But since I do have some dear friends who are not on Facebook (lookin' at you, Niks), I'll try to get a little update onto the blog.

We were submitted to court in early May, and we've successfully completed our first Ethiopian court date!  This is the hearing where either the birth parent/family or finder would appear in the Ethiopian courts.  On May 30, this occurred, and all those who needed to be there were present.  Some of you prayed with us on that night, and we are so grateful for your love and support.

Our next step is to get final approval from MOWA (the social services agency in Ethiopia) who will provide "comments" for our case.  Once positive comments are provided, we will be scheduled for an adoptive parent court date.  This means that we will FINALLY get to travel to Ethiopia and meet our son.  We will appear in court, and if all goes well, the judge will sign a decree and the little man with the big dimples will officially be a part of our family.

What is our timeline for travel, you ask?  Good question.  Currently there doesn't seem to be a common timeline.  Some families are getting stuck for weeks or months at this point.  And others seems to be sliding right through with travel times about a month out from their first court dates.  Either way, we will likely only have a couple of weeks notice, or less, before we travel.  We hope and pray that we will hear something this week.  It's certainly possible.

Unfortunately, we don't get to bring him home on this trip.  We will come back home for about a month while his new birth certificate and passport are generated.  We'll then return for an appointment to the US embassy in Ethiopia for a visa, and then we get to bring our boy home.

Sound complicated?  Lord have mercy, it is.  Trying to understand this process start to finish has commandeered the majority of my brain cells for 4 plus years.  And the rules change.  And when you've got them down they change again.

Me?  I'm just anxious to get this kid home.  I have a one track mind.

Wes:  What do you want to do tonight?
Me:  The only thing in the world I want to do tonight is go to Ethiopia.

Wes:  Where do you want to go tonight?
Me:  The only place in the world I want to go right now is Ethiopia.

Wes:  What do you want to eat tonight?
Me:  Ethiopian food.  In Ethiopia.  

When we started this process in 2010, we were told it would be an 18 month ordeal.  Now 4 years later, making any sort of timeline seems almost silly.  However, I do have the habit of setting short term goals for the length of time that ideally (and realistically) any particular step might take.  But dates on a calendar seem now arbitrary and cold.  Our adoption certainly hasn't flowed that way.  Specific dates have been mostly meaningless.  "Next week," they tell us, "Soon."

So a few months ago, toward the beginnings of spring, as the leaves were just coming onto the trees, I went outside and pointed to the tall Cottonwood in our backyard.  "Before the cotton is off that tree, God," I prayed, "Let us know about our travel date before the cotton is off that tree."

The cotton really began to fly the week of our first court date.  And because the cotton has to COME off the tree before it can BE off the tree, I was so excited about it.  It felt like wheels in motion as the first layer of cotton covered our lives, swirling and twirling into heaps of white.

God's promises floating down in airy wisps.  Covering us.  Covering everything in layers of his grace like summer snow.  Soft and insistent.

"I am here, I am working," He whispered in the gently falling seeds of promise.  

"See the movement?  I am moving.  I AM movement," He spoke into the dancing heart-shaped leaves and fluttering cotton.

"Do you see the promise?  The potential in that tiny seed?  Can you see how I make vast bountiful trees out of tiny specs of potential?   Anemic hopes into dreams fulfilled?"

And we spent afternoons in a hammock getting covered in the stuff.  Like grace falling.  I couldn't keep it off of me if I wanted to! Fat fluffy piles of God's promises covering our little world.

This week the cotton is nearly gone from our tree.  A few stubborn pods remain, but with summer storms in the forecast, I don't think that they will be there long.  I don't know if we will get our travel date like I'd hoped before the last wisp of cotton blows off that tree.  But I do know that God continues to teach me in the longings, in the wantings, and in the achings.

And He me sends me His love on the breeze of a cottonwood.  

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Adoption Update

Good news!  We are PAIR approved!  Yay!  It took us a little under 3 months to complete this process.  This means that the US has done their investigation of our case and the circumstances surrounding our son's arrival in the orphanage and gave us a favorable ruling.  Our country is behind our adoption!  :)  So at this point our dossier is being submitted to the Ethiopian courts. They will do their own investigation and then we will be assigned a court date.

I've been inundated with friends and families who stopped me to say "Wow!  Good news!  You passed PAIR!  We're so excited for you!  ....but what the heck does all that mean?"

Even Jena, when I told her the news, said "do we get to bring him home now?"  Well, no.  Not yet.  But we are one step closer.  

For those of you who don't eat sleep and breathe Ethiopian adoption process/law like I do, and for those who are weighing their options about whether or not to begin this journey, let me give you a brief (ish) rundown of the overall process.
Here is the process as it stands today:

1.  Application - You've decided to adopt!  You fill out the application and submit your application fees.

2.  The Paper Chase (Home Study and Dossier)- This involves putting into paper format virtually every aspect of your life.  Financial, medical, psychological, employment, history, parenting style, insurance, criminal history etc.  You'll be fingerprinted several times in this process.  This usually takes families around 6 months, but it's highly variable.  It took us 6 months the first time, 1 month the second time.  By the second time I'd discovered my gift for adoption paperwork.  :)

3.  Dossier logged in Ethiopia (The long wait) - At this point your paperwork has been completed, notarized, and authenticated on state, and federal levels.  It's also been translated into Amharic.  This is where the long wait for a referral begins.  Families typically wait a 1-3 years to be matched with a child (referral).  

4.  Referral!  -  This is the most exciting day.  You've been matched with a child at last.  

5.  PAIR submission - You child's paperwork is submitted along with your home study to USCIS (Immigration) for review.

6.  Embassy Interview -  The US embassy in Addis Ababa Ethiopia conducts an independent investigation of the circumstances of your child's arrival into the orphanage.  This involves either a birth parent or finder interview.  This is an ethics review to be certain the child is a true orphan. 
When this is completed the PAIR letter is issued by the US govt stating that they believe the child is a true orphan and that the family is eligible to adopt.

7.  Ethiopian Court Submission -  This begins first with Ethiopia's ethics investigation into the circumstances of the child being given up.  This involves another interview with the birth parent or finder.  

8.  Adoptive Family Court Date - You get to travel to see your child at last!  You will appear in Ethiopian court before the judge.  If all goes well, this child is officially yours!  Sadly, they must be issued an US visa before you can actually bring them home.  Since this requires several weeks, you must leave your child in Ethiopia, and travel back a few weeks or months later to bring them home.

9.  Embassy Appointment -  Last step before you bring your child home.  After you travel back for the embassy appointment, your little one can finally travel home to the US.  

This process is always changing and evolving.  (Which is probably a good thing, even though it can be frustrating at times.) Which means my synopsis won't be accurate for long.

SO!  As you can see from my list, we are getting closer to travelling.  We know as well as anyone, that you can get stuck at any point, waiting weeks for what seems a very small thing.  So it's really hard to produce timelines.  But we are praying boldly and going in confidently believing that we will travel in early summer.  Until then, we celebrate our little victories and continue to dream of the day we get to meet our son.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Letting Go

There is a tree outside my window...

This tree that shares our space, she's holding on.  

In the years we've lived near her, she has always been reluctant to let go.  It is a component of her essential nature, this predilection to the holding on.  She is tenacious.  She is consistently the last of the 16 trees in the yard to surrender her leaves.  

But eventually

with time and some providential coaxing from the wind, come some cold December day, one by one they drop.  She bids the dead foliage of yesterday goodbye.  

Bare the rest of the winter, she appears desolate, depleted to the naked eye.  
But reader, that is only to the casual observer.  

Because what she's actually doing is creating space for life.  Creating space for growth.  For movement.  

Because, without fail, buds emerge.  New leaves come.  New vitality

The letting go is the beginning of life.  The letting go IS life.  

But this year the tree resolved not to let go.  

Gripping tightly to brown deadened leaves, she held on through snow storms
Through sub zero temperatures.  
Through wind.  
Through icy rain.  

She refused to let go of the dreams of a foregone summer.  A season long gone and long forgotten by her cohorts who have already released it's invention.  

Soon the tree will have to make a choice.  
You see, spring is upon us.  New buds are already forming, the promise of something new. 
In order to make space for the new, she will have to let go of the old

There is no room to do both the holding on and the letting go.  

It can't be done.  She must let go.

But what if she didn't?  What if she decided that the specter of last summer must be preserved?  What if she refused to release it?  What would happen to the something new, forming even now as tiny buds on her branches?  

The something new would die.  
She would die, still clutching the dead leaves of yesterday.  

Because there is not space to do the holding on and the letting go.  

What will become of her, do you think, this tree who clings so tightly to what's been lost?  
Will she let go? 
Will she embrace the something new?  
Will she drop the dead leaves of the past so that she can grow something better?  

Let me tell you, friends.  I think she will.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Referral (Take 2)

What?  An actual post with adoption news?  We have adoption news?  Actual GOOD new?  Why yes, yes we do.  :)

We are happy to announce that a few weeks ago we accepted a referral for a 6 month old little boy from Ethiopia.  Of course, I can't post pictures here until we've passed court.  But let me tell you, friends, there are dimples involved.  :)  Just. Wow. Ridiculously cute.

We received our referral the day after my mother's surgery to remove a pituitary tumor.  I was spending the day in the surgical ICU with her when I got the call.  We opened our referral in the ICU waiting room at the hospital.  (We couldn't do it in the actual ICU because kids aren't allowed in there and we wanted Jena to be present when we opened it.)  My brother was in town for my mom's surgery so he was able to record it all for us, which was special.  And my sweet mother, in a lot of pain and discomfort after major surgery, was still able to "ooo" and "aww" at the precious little boy's face when I ran back into the ICU to show her.  :)  It was, like many of our experiences, imperfectly perfect.  And imperfectly perfect is what we do best.

There is a new game afoot in the Ethiopian adoption process.  They call it the PAIR process.  This essentially reverses the order in which documents move through the system.  (USCIS/embassy investigation first, then the Ethiopian courts.)  We are among the first families to attempt the PAIR process.  Therefore, no one really knows exactly what to expect as far as timelines.  Early estimates increased the wait time dramatically.  But recently it's looked a bit more hopeful.  We are submitting our PAIR documents today.  The first big step!  After that will be the birth parent or finder court date.  Then our adoptive parent court date when we will travel to Ethiopia see our little guy and appear in Ethiopian courts.  Last up is a second trip to Ethiopia to visit the US embassy and to bring him home.  So as you can see, we still have a lot of big hurdles.  We are likely still months away from our first trip.  But as always, we're hopeful.  

Some of you may be wondering what happened with the referral we've been waiting on for over a year.  Nothing happened with that referral...and that's the problem.  If you'll recall, we initially received two referrals.  We lost the first one 6 months later, you can read about that here.   The second one, was a matter of getting local court clearance.  This never happened.  Our agency lost confidence that this would be completed any time soon, or even that it would be completed at all.  We've asked them to let us know if this child ever becomes available for adoption with the release of the local clearance.  They've informed us that they don't expect that to happen for a year or years, if at all.  But they have agreed to inform us should that occur.  Through it all, we do have a peace about losing this child.  We continue to pray over him.  For his life, for his future, for his daily care.  We know his life story isn't over.

For now we're taking it one step at a time, praying that our PAIR documents move smoothly and quickly through our government, allowing for a smooth process through the Ethiopian courts. Feeling blessed and grateful as we move forward, we wait with bated breath on the edge of our seats to see what God will do next.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Blessings & Curses

December was a month of things gone wrong.  Bad news was being hurtled at us from every direction.  Some of it public, some of it private, there were few that knew the extent of what we were dealing with.  Just after Christmas, a press conference took place in Ethiopia to address a politician's intent to end all international adoptions in Ethiopia.  It was at this point that I looked and Wes and said "OK.  I'm really starting to feel picked on."

In a moment of utter frustration I texted a friend to unload on her my "list".  It was the list of all the things that had gone wrong, all the fires I was working to put out, all the things that had me pulling my hair out going "enough already!".  A few more days went by, and a few more things went wrong.  While mentally adding these events to my growing list it occurred to me that I had been so focused on the little disasters...spending so much time taking inventory of the things gone wrong...that I was paying no attention to the things gone right.

So I turned my mental list into a physical list.  I wrote it all down.  Then I spent some time contemplating each situation, what could have been, and what comes next.  And then next to each item, I scribbled down the blessing.  In each situation, it was there...something to be thankful for.  And to my surprise, there it was...a brand new list!  A list of the ways that I had been blessed.  What a joy and wonder to discover that in this month where I had felt cursed, what I actually had been....was blessed.  When I felt abandoned and forgotten, I was cherished and remembered.  When I had felt lost and alone, I was actually found and held.  The things I had thought had come into my life in recent weeks to break my heart, were actually there to help heal it.  My life like a poorly healed fracture, there were ways that I needed to be broken anew in order to find true healing.

And now in this new year, a time for new beginnings.  Moving ahead.  Praying for meaningful movement in our adoption.  But remembering as we go, the many ways that we have been blessed.  That we are loved, and cherished, and remembered, and held.  That when we focus so deeply on the curses in our lives, we may actually miss the blessing.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.
Deuteronomy 30:19

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Desert Days

Well, hello there blogosphere.  It's been awhile.  It is time, I guess, to get back to it.  If you could see my unpublished list of blog posts, you would know that I've tried (several times) to write, over the past couple of months.  There have been many half completed attempts, some now deleted, some sitting half finished and unpublished.  I just couldn't do it, I couldn't finish.  I couldn't do it because the very simple and honest truth is that I have been sad.  Is it ok to admit that here?  I hope so.  Sometimes it is easier to admit that you are struggling in retrospect.  After you've conquered it and moved on, to say "hey, I was struggling there, but good news!  I'm better now!"  Maybe I was waiting for that time to come, or maybe I was just operating under the whole "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" principle.  I don't know.  But either way, I'm working to write now in the hopes that organizing some of this on paper(well...computer screen?) will organize it in my head as well.

Our adoption these days is at a standstill.  To recap, we received referrals last November for two little boys, an infant and a 2 year old.  We lost the referral for the infant in May.  Our adoption of the two-year-old little boy is sadly stuck.  He is in need of a document from the local courts.  It is a document that they have repeatedly promised to release "next week", but so far have not done so.  He is from a particularly difficult region, where these documents are hard to come by.  And while we wait on the courts to process this document, he sits and waits in an orphanage, as far as we know, unaware of us or how desperately we want him.  This is frustrating, and infuriating, and heartbreaking.  The Ethiopian courts are currently closed for the rainy season.  They are expected to reopen in early October.   We realized this week that all our immigration paperwork on the US side will expire again in February, and that unless things begin to move fairly quickly, we will likely need to redo our paperwork/fingerprinting...again.  Sigh.  We have been sad, and frustrated, and feeling very much alone.  We've spent more than our fair share of time asking "why?".  I am on a ferris wheel of emotion that cycles between angry and sad and hopeful and resolved.  Then back to angry and they cycle begins once again.  I'm starting to realize that's just par for the course at this point, and working to find appropriate channels to funnel the negative emotions through when it is their time to come.

The good news is that in the midst of these dark desert days, there have actually been many moments of grace, and hope, and sparks of pure joy.  At times it has been hard to see them through the lens of sadness that darkens and distorts the vibrance of life.  But they have most definitely been there.  And these are the moments in these dry days of waiting that must be amplified.  Because in the silence, in the waiting, still we can know You are good.  So in that spirit, here are a few of the highlights of the past several months:

You might remember the twin teenage girls that lived with us this summer.  They had graduated from foster care and were in need of a home and some help finding jobs and permanent housing.   They spent their summer in our home, working toward these goals.  I'm so happy to report that the girls now have their own apartment.  They have held jobs these past three months and are working hard to build a home for the baby that one of them is about to give birth to.  (Any day now!!)  They have come so far.  We are crazy proud of them.  They still have many challenges ahead, but I'm confident that they will find their way.  It is truly exciting to see how God is moving in their lives.  They are family now, we love them.  We had lunch today at the restaurant where they work.  We overheard one of the twins tell another waitress "I'll take that table.  That's my family."  We love that.  And we feel so honored to be a part of their lives.
Here is a proud mama moment of the girls with their keys to their very first apartment on lease-signing day:

Shortly after we moved the girls into their apartment we went to visit family in New Jersey.  We had an amazing time.  Jena had missed her cousins like crazy, and the three of them were inseperable throughout the trip.  We had the best EVER Ethiopian food in Montclair (Mesob) and saw the sights in NYC.

We took a little road trip down to Guthrie, Oklahoma to meet up with my brother, Josh, and his wife, Anna, to attend the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover.  It was an amazing outdoor music festival in a hayfield in the small town of Guthrie.  (While Guthrie has a population of 10,000, there were 30,000 in attendance for GOTR, so the town was pretty much over-run with indie-loving music fanatics.)  Like most outdoor music festivals, attendance was a bit of an adventure in and of itself, with a sprinkling of some really great bands mixed in to add to the fun.  Anna and I are lovers of indie, so this concert was right up our alley.

The Stopover was headlined by one of my favorite bands, Mumford & Sons.  Their album, Babel, came out about the same time that we received our referrals last November.  On it was a song entitled "I will wait".  Yeah.  Can you think of a more appropriate adoption theme song for us?  Jena loves a good kitchen dance party to this song.  We have listened to and belted out this song on many occasions during the past 10 months.  We've sung it happy, we've sung it sad.  I've sung it alone in the car through gritted teeth and tears.  And on this night we got to sing it live with the band.

I will wait 

I will wait for you

Here's a sad, shaky little clip of it.  Ignore the "Woo's!"  I'm blaming those entirely on Anna.  :)

This past weekend we were able to attend an Ethiopian New Year Celebration here in Wichita.  They held it downtown at the beautiful Exploration Place.  We had a great time with some very kind Ethiopian families, and many of the families from our local Ethiopia adoption group.  They had a fashion show of Ethiopian clothing, traditional Ethiopian dancers, and delicious Ethiopian food.  It was really great, and really hard all at the same time.  I hadn't forseen how difficult it would be to be the only adoptive family there that was still in process.  While it was so fun to watch all those little Ethiopians running around, I have to admit that it was also painful.  We want our children home.  There were some tearful moments in the bathroom.  But there were also joyful moments, and in the end I'm glad we went.

So to finish out my long overdue blog post, I'd like to leave you with a song.  It is a song by Mumford & Sons called, The Ghosts that We Knew, that we had the pleasure of hearing live in Guthrie.  (You might need to be on a pc to view the video below).  This song is very personal to me.  It has been one of the most honest prayers of my broken heart these long months of waiting.   In those moments where the future seems uncertain, and the clouds of doubt and darkness threaten to block out the joy, there is this:  He has promised that We will be alright.  And we will, all of us, be alright...

So give me hope in the darkness, that I will see the light
Cause Oh it gave me such a fright.
And I will hold, as long as you like
Just promise me we'll be alright